VANCOUVER, Wash. – Nearly forty years ago Jamie Grissim of Vancouver disappeared without a trace. Detectives suspected she was murdered, but they’ve never found her body.
After all these years, the evidence points to one man: Warren Forrest.
Investigators think Forrest killed Grissim and other teenage girls; however, prosecutors could only make one case stick. In the 1970s Forrest was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Krista Blake in the woods of Tukes Mountain just east of Battle Ground.
Now Forrest is up for parole. He went before the parole board on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen, Wash.
It’s a day that Grissim’s little sister Starr Lara of Hillsboro, didn’t think she’d have to deal with for three more years. Forrest isn’t eligible for parole until 2014, but the board is going to make their decision in the next few weeks.
Lara said she was stunned to learn the decision was going to be made three years in advance.
Lara was 14 years old, when her then 16-year-old sister went missing on December 7, 1971.
“When I got home I noticed she wasn’t home and I said ‘where’s Jamie?’”, Lara told the four member parole board at its offices near Olympia, WA on Monday afternoon.
The last time Lara saw her sister, she had left their foster home for Fort Vancouver High School. Jamie attended classes but never came back. At the time, Starr was told that her sister had simply run away.
Then five months later Grissim’s student ID and other belongings were found near Sunset Falls Campground in remote Clark County.
The bodies of two other women were later found nearby.
“I think of my sister every day, especially when I get up and when I go to bed,” Lara told the parole board.
Three years went by before Forrest was arrested for kidnapping, raping, stabbing and leaving for dead a different 20-year-old woman at Lacamas Lake Park near Camas.
Forrest was working for the Clark County Parks department at the time. In high school he was captain of the track team. He then served in Vietnam with the Army. He was married and the father of two young children.
He pleaded guilty by way of insanity and was sent to the state mental hospital near Tacoma for five years.
The same year as the Lacamas Lake kidnapping, detectives say Forrest lured a 15-year-old Ridgefield girl into his blue van and drove her to the same stand of trees that he took Krista Blake to near Battle Ground.
According to a Columbian article at the time, the girl testified in court he “tied her head to one tree and her legs to another. Later, she chewed through the twine and struggled out of a loop holding her legs. With hands and ankles still tied, she hopped away.”
It was just 169 feet away from where hikers found Blake’s body. She had been hogtied and killed.
Near the end of his treatment at the mental hospital, Forrest was convicted for Blake’s murder and sent to prison in 1979.
“He tortured her, shot her with a dart gun and cut her throat and then he buried her in a very shallow grave,” said Blake’s sister Zela, who did not want her full name used in this article.
Zela and Blake’s other sister Valerie both lobbied the parole board to keep Forrest behind bars.
“Warren Forrest is a monster and no amount of time in prison will change that,” said Valerie, who also didn’t want her last name published.
Trying to solve Jamie’s murder
A Clark County Sheriff’s Office document from 1978 formally links Forrest to Grissim’s disappearance, as well as murders or attacks on six other women.
In a 2006 email, a Clark County detective wrote, “it’s suspected that Jamie Grissim is the first victim of Warren Leslie Forrest, who is suspected of killing eight women Clark County.” | Read the documents (warning: graphic content)
“The story of Warren Forrest is a horrible story,” said Denny Hunter, a retired Clark County deputy prosecutor, when it was his turn to speak to the parole board.
Hunter was the prosecutor who put Forrest in prison.
“What he did to them was probably the most cruel behavior I’ve probably ever experienced,” he said.
Grissim’s sister Starr Lara still hopes there is some humanity left inside of Forrest. Now that he’s 61 years old and up for parole, she hopes he’ll reveal the location of her sister’s body, though doing so could open him up to being prosecuted for Jamie’s murder.
“What happened to her, the not knowing is the hardest part,” she said. “Where is she? And he knows, I know he knows.”
Family members didn’t get to talk face-to-face with Forrest during the parole hearing, but he will get copies of statements from them.
The parole board will take four to six weeks to make their decision. If he is granted parole, Forrest will spend the next three years before his release learning how to live on the outside – things like how to use a cell phone.
It’s hard to say how the board will rule, but board member Dennis Thaut said, “this is a very, very serious history to overcome.”
Clark County Sheriff’s Detectives hope they will still get a tip that will lead them to Jamie Grissim’s body.
KATU.com producer John Tierney contributed to this report